Archive for the ‘ cambodia ’ Category

finally an internet connection

and so much to say!

so, upon getting to cambodia y the worst means possible, i got washed and rested at the guesthouse i was dropped off at (not a chance in hell i was going to venture out to find anywhere else the state i was in) and the following day i did what everyone in siam reap does, go to angkor wat.

you hear people’s stories about how vast the site is and how the sight of it is breathtaking and will blow you away, well our guide showed us the site in the perfect fashion: little at a time and building up to the grand finale.

we started with the out lying temples, all wonderful: every square inch covered in intricate carvings and murals and all in various states of ruined disrepair. the $20 entrance fee evidently in use as there was restoration work going on in most of the buildings we visited. the site of the site became apparent when we spend about a 1/2 driving from the penultimate building to the main wat, a distance that didn;t look very far on the map.

i walked down the long central walkway to the courtyard at the perfect time of day; the sun setting behind me casting a wonderful orange light over the stone. once you pass through the carved archway you see the magnificent five towered temple and fell very small indeed. i must have spent about an hour just walking around the perimeter, admittedly stopping to take the odd photo along the way until i found the perfect spot to get the famous evening photo of the temple. i was truly done by this point, the heat and the distance having worn me out.

that evening the irish lads that i met on the bus took me out for a few drinks and a few games of cards. i taught them sh*thead, they taught me an irish game, 45 which i’ve now totally forgotten, the rules being totally absurd and even by there admittance hard to master. i’ll stick to sh*thead. pete, by the way, got a few more rule to add to our game. you’ll like ’em.

that’s really all there is to do in siam reap, so i booked a bus on a much easier road to the capitol, phnom pehn.

from the description in the guidebook this place sounds ace. “a collection of broad tree lined boulevards and colonial buildings, traditional architecture and traditional heritage” all that is there, no doubt, but they fail to mention the enormous collection of terrible smells. maybe it was just the part of town i was in with it’s open sewers and market selling meat in the hottest parts of the day. don’t get me wrong, i ‘do like the place, the people are incredibly friendly in a way that makes you feel like you aren’t getting shafted everytime you get a tuk tuk or go see one of the sites and it is very picturesque.

cambodia does of course have a very dark recent history, something that i was very keen to find out more about while here. it all starts with angkor wat, more specifically the enormous barrets surrounding the temple grounds. the barrets are large reservoirs, some 17000 olympic sized swimming pools originally thought to be the hub of an irrigation system for the area (that has since been disproved as there are no channels leading away from it. they have seemingly no purpose whatsoever!). pol pot took this first theory to heart and proclaimed that the great civilisation of angkor was founded on it’s ability to produce vast quantities of rice.

after the end of the vietnam war, cambodia’s western supporting government was too weak to withstand a revolution by pol pot’s kymer rouge army and within a week, he took power and forced everyone to leave the cities, telling them that the americans would return, and put them to work in the fields. to stop any overthrowing of his power he immediately arrested, interrogated and killed any teacher, doctor, intellectual, minister, monk, anyone who had any possibly way of refuting his power. in addition to this anyone who stood up to the strict rule of his dictatorship also faced the same. (rules like ýou cannot look left or right, only forward’ the guy was insane!). some 2 million cambodians were killed by fellow cambodians in 4 years. one other horrible fact, pol pot saw that the best soldiers for his private army must also be the most obedient…children, some as young as 10 (children younger than that faced the same fate as their parents).

i first went to see the killing fields, a site about 10km south of the city. set in idillic surroundings it’s theplace where the victims of the interrogations came to be killed, if they had not as a result of the torture at S21 (coming next). it’s dominated by a glass stupa containing 8689 skulls from the fraction of the bodies exhumed so far. this temple is surrounded by 84 mass graves. disturbingly you can still see clothing and boned protruding from the ground. the site was only discovered due to the terrible smell it gave off else it would still be a mystery.

the following day i visited S12, a high school turned prison through which everyone passed on the way to the killing field. it’s like something from a horror film: long narrow corridors with classrooms divided into cells 0.8×1.2m in size. some of the rooms have metal beds with the electrocution wires still on show.

every victim had their photo taken, name recorded and biography taken. all these records are still on show as if they are something to pride. i was truely sickened by the whole thing.

today i escaped. i’m on the beach at sihanoukville, only for one day before i return to phnom pehn to catch an early flight back to bangkok and on to the diving course on koh tao. some light relief from the past few days.

sorry to have not written anything for a while, internet connections are something of a rarety here. hope everyone is happy and well.

nate, roger, i’m so sorry…

you gave me sound advise and i chose, very unwisely not to follow it…i took the bus from bangkok to siam reap!

the day didn’t start off too badly, the large air conditioned bus pulled up just down the street from the hostel just as i had been told it would do by the young woman at the travel agents. ‘getting to cambodia in this will be no problem’ i thought. well the jouney as far as the border in this bus was great. at the border we got out, had some food, a few people got there visas sorted out and we made our way through immigration. not a difficult process but it was getting really hot by this point and a little sticky and uncomfortable. that was where the fun ended.

the continuation of the journey would still be by bus, but not the super-comfortable big ‘vip’ bus. no no. by a small, rattling, air-conless ‘local’ bus (for local people) . then it got worse. you see there was a rumor, one which has since been confirmed that a nameless airline company in this part of the world has paid off the government NOT to tarmac the road from the border to siam reap, know fullwell that the nightmare of the journey by road will become infamous and people will fly. not i. i sat on this local bus for 7 hours while the very skillful driver negotiated potholes the size of lunar craters not on a road but a dirt track. rocks the size of footballs, huge artic lorries, bikes, cars, no ‘drive on the left’: drive wherever the hell you can. the lack of air con meant that the windows had to be opened letting what nate coined ”cambodian snow” (the orangy-red dust that part of the country is made from) to cover us all from head to toe. joking aside, i’m still coughing up mud. guys, i know you warned me, but i am glad i’ve done it. something of an experience that will make any journey from here on in blissfully easy by comparison.

but it’s not all bad. i’m in a nice little guesthouse, possibly the poshest i’ve stayed in so far, for $5 a night. today i’m going to see one of the sever wonders of the world: angkor wat. going to see it by day and the sunset today, then the sunrise and the early light tomorrow. hoping to get some killer shots and learn more about this countries early history. on saturday i’m going to travel to phnom pehn to the killing fields and get more insight into the more recent and tragic history. we had a short lesson in rather broken english from a tuk-tuk driver last night, more to come on that one.